Divestment Can Make a Difference

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by Jocelyn Sawyer

The following is from a piece that appeared in the 11/9/12 issue of The Earlham Word.

“In the Oct. 26 edition of the Word, Maurice Boetger accused an opinion piece about [the BDS Earlham campaign] that was published the previous week of “fail[ing] to recognize distinction.”  However, Boetger himself missed the mark on his analysis of divestment as an ineffective strategy for social change.

[ . . . ] The essential point which was completely missed in his article is that both divestment campaigns on this campus are Earlham chapter of larger movements.

As evidence, I suggest a look at the rapidly-growing fossil fuel divestment movement.  When REInvestment began in Dec. 2011, Earlham was one of only a handful of schools working on such a campaign.  Over this past summer, with assistance from national environmental organizations, a multitude of schools have joined in to form what is now an erupting national movement.  Students at over fifty schools are pressuring their institutions to divest from coal and/or other fossil fuels; two colleges have already done so, and a number of others have declared their willingness to consider divestment but are wary of being among the first to do so for fear of making too strong a political statement.

Because this particular movement is so new, Earlham is in a position of enormous potential: if we were to divest from coal tomorrow, we would still be among the first schools to do so, and the very first outside of New England. Our action could help create a domino effect, as other institutions follow our lead and commit to coal divestment.  The goal is that the movement’s incredible momentum will lead to more and more schools deciding to divest as negative attention is drawn to their environmentally-irresponsible investing practices. Ideally, this will make coal look like a risky and undesirable investment, which would drive down the price of stock – simultaneously drawing even more attention to the issue and forcing coal companies to amend their practices. If all of what I have described were to happen, wouldn’t Earlham’s leading role in the movement have indeed created a noticeable impact?

Again, Earlham alone would not bring about these impacts, but through participation in a broader, coordinated, social justice movement, we would demonstrate our willingness to live up to our values – to truly engage with the world beyond our little bubble.
[ . . . ]

The full op/ed can be read here.


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